A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Central Bank’s Luther Deaton stands up, stands out — and is ‘one-man force’ who was ‘built for banking’

By Craig Colgan
ABA Banking Journal

That day in 2018 was a grim moment for a proud Kentucky community. Before a cluster of TV cameras, a determined and resolute group stood together, proponents of a tax to raise $13.5 million to fund several major school-safety measures. Their message was simple: We need to address this right now.

Two students at a nearby school district had been killed in a school shooting earlier in the year. Soon after, a police search of a student’s bedroom after he threatened to shoot up his Lexington high school turned up 500 rounds of ammunition and a rifle. Several weeks later inside separate Lexington-area schools, one student was caught with a gun, and another student accidentally shot his own hand.

Bluegrass banker Luther Deaton, Central Bank (ABA Banking Journal photo)

Among the group standing alongside Fayette County Public Schools officials that day before the media was local business leader Luther Deaton Jr. The chairman, president and CEO of Lexington’s Central Bank and Trust says the reason he stood up that day with that group was clear.

“The superintendent came to me and a couple other guys and said, ‘What do you think we should do?’” Deaton explains. “I said I think this is important. What’s a child’s laugh or a teacher’s laugh worth? Our kids need to be safe. What we have to spend is well worth it.”

The proposed upgrades included hiring additional school officers, improving school-entry safety measures, as well as increased attention to mental health assistance for students. The school board approved the plan a few weeks later.

“There were some people who didn’t like that I stood up,” Deaton says. “When we have a problem, I dive into it. I try to convince people this is the right thing to do. That’s just exactly the way I am made.”

Dream job

The banker with 41 years in the business — and just completing his first of two years as the American Bankers Association’s treasurer — got his start a long way from the cameras and the corner office.

“My dream job was a lender,” Deaton reflects. “I wanted to be the contact person to loan people money to watch them grow. And when they grew, our bank grew and I figured everything else will take care of itself.”

Did it ever.

Deaton graduated from Louisiana State University’s Graduate School of Banking and moved from that teller position in 1978 quickly to several managerial positions to a position there that no longer exists: VP for equine lending. In Kentucky, the horse business was so prominent that banks gave it its own department. “Today, it’s just called commercial lending,” Deaton says. The title changed, but the love of horse racing stuck for him.

Deaton grew up in a four-room house, with three sisters and no running water in Breathitt County. His parents were major influences on the man and businessman he would become.

For the rest of this story, click here.

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One Comment

  1. Julie Sloan says:

    You mean life?
    A child’s life or a teacher’s life?

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